The National University of Singapore (NUS) is on a roll this year, getting set to put another feather in its cap as it claims the top spot in yet another ranking of Asian universities.

Times Higher Education (THE) released its Asia University Rankings 2016 yesterday, revealing the region’s top 200 institutions from 22 countries.

For the first time in the rankings’ four-year history, Singapore’s two ranking universities – NUS and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) – obtained their highest positions in the list, securing the top two spots, with NTU sharing second place with China’s Peking University.


Pic: Times Higher Education.



NUS unseated the University of Tokyo, which had previously been number one for the last three years. This year, the University of Tokyo fell six places to seventh place.

Just last week, NUS was also named Asia’s top university in the QS Asia University Rankings 2016.

NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said that based on the university’s experience in attaining excellence, there are several key factors that contribute to an institution’s development, including institutional agility and drive; recruiting and nurturing top-class talent; innovation and differentiation; and global partnerships.


Pic: Times Higher Education


Overall, universities in China and Japan have maintained a strong presence on the list, with each having 39 institutions making the top 200. South Korea and Taiwan are close behind, with 24 institutions each.

However, when it comes to the number of institutions which made the top 100, China has the upper hand, with 22 universities in the top half of the table (including two in the top 10) to Japan’s 14 institutions (and one in the top 10).

This year’s list includes eight more countries than last year’s, with several countries, including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Qatar, being represented for the first time.


According to THE’s rankings editor Phil Baty, the Southeast Asia region is “one of the most exciting and dynamic regions in world higher education and research today”.

“Not only is it home to Asia’s top two universities (both in Singapore), it is also at the center of significant initiatives to drive up the quality of universities – and to put them at the heart of the region’s economic growth,” he added, as quoted by the Malay Mail Online.

“This new data release shows that Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have universities able to stand up to rigorous performance benchmarking against the Times Higher Education’s performance indicators.”


Malaysia made a return to the top 100 since 2013, with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia placing 70th in the table.

However, Thai universities have taken a tumble in prestige, with Baty commenting: “It is disappointing that only seven Thai universities make this list of Asia’s best universities and that the country has not made more of a dent in the top half of the table.”

“Although the nation’s institutions have a stronger international outlook than many of their regional rivals, they score poorly on research environment,” he said, according to The Nation.

The lack of progress made by Thai universities has partly been attributed to the recent political crisis of 2013-14, which had resulted in less Government investment in higher education.


“The country’s political crisis in 2013-14 has held back the nation’s universities and the government has been less committed at investing in higher education than its fellow ASEAN member Singapore.

“This ranking is full of rising stars that are beginning to challenge many of the Western elites; Thailand cannot afford to get left behind,” warned Baty.

Simon Marginson, a professor of international higher education at University College London‘s Institute of Education, agreed with Baty’s assessment, saying that Thailand’s universities have been “held back by years of political turmoil, and lack of genuine governmental enthusiasm about funding”.

According to THE, its Asia University Rankings use the same 13 performance indicators as the World University Rankings; however, they were recalibrated to reflect the attributes of Asia’s higher education systems. The performance indicators are grouped into five areas: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

Image via Flickr.

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